Friday, May 20, 2016

This blog is not about Peter Singer

Did you get here because you were searching Peter Singer? Sorry, but there is nothing to see here.

I will say this though. Peter Singer's standards for ethical behavior are not just controversial but demanding. Singer himself admits that he falls short. He thinks that people should give very large amounts of money to charity. He confesses that he only manages to give away 20%. He believes that we should use our resources to do the most good.  He has been criticized for providing his mother, who had Alzheimer's, with care even though the money arguably could have done more good being spent in a different way. In a New Yorker article he was asked about this:
We were sitting in his living room one day, and the trolley traffic was noisy on the street outside his window. Singer has spent his career trying to lay down rules for human behavior which are divorced from emotion and intuition. His is a world that makes no provision for private aides to look after addled, dying old women. Yet he can't help himself. "I think this has made me see how the issues of someone with these kinds of problems are really very difficult,'' he said quietly. "Perhaps it is more difficult than I thought before, because it is different when it's your mother." (
Some people think this makes Singer a hypocrite. I think it it makes him a human.

Now, I don't agree with Singer about a lot of things. But I am with him on this. We are embroiled in a debate about health care in America. Should we move to a single payer plan? Is it possible to move to such a plan when most providers and insurers in the US are for-profit?  Should we be working harder on extending life for a few or making life better for everyone?  Should Medicaid dollars be spent on an expensive cancer treatment that will likely only extend life for 6 months, or on getting many more people treatment for their diabetes? Whatever we think about these and other difficult decisions, I think we all share Singer's experience when we have to act on behalf of the ones we love.  It is more difficult than we imagined. It is different when it's your mother.

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Blogs can be a good way to develop relationships with people who have similar experiences. Feel free to share here. Please know that I am not seeking sympathy and I will not tolerate judgmental trolls. If I think what you say is unhelpful to me or my readers I will delete it. If that makes you happy, go start your own damn blog.